Friday, 26 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are called to reflect on what it means for us to be Christians, that is to be followers of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. To be Christians mean that we are all called to action, to be truly righteous, good and just in our every actions and dealings, in our words and interactions with one another. Otherwise, we are no better than hypocrites that have no real faith in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel a very important and clear explanation of what it means for us to be a follower of the Lord and how our actions and choices in life can either be good or terrible for us, and all that we say and do, are all ultimately accountable to the Lord in the end. We shall be judged for all the good things we have done, just as we shall be judged for all the bad and the failures in our lives. All these will determine whether we will end up being with God for eternity or whether we will end up in eternal damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the prophet Ezekiel spoke firmly of how the righteous, if they committed sins and wicked deeds, they shall be held accountable by those things, and they would even face damnation were those deeds be great enough to merit damnation and punishment. On the other hand, even the wicked would be saved and blessed by God should they commit their lives to the Lord and turned a new leaf, in embracing the Lord’s ways and rejecting their sinful past.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? And how is this significant and important for us? It means that there is always a way out for us from sin, and that is through God’s grace and forgiveness. If we are sincere in our desire to repent and in our regrets for our many sins, and if we want to be forgiven by God for those sins, then we shall be forgiven. Otherwise, if we do not make the effort to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, how can we then expect to be forgiven?

The Lord told His disciples in our Gospel passage today that they all had to be more faithful and more genuine in their faith and lives than the Pharisees, or else they could not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This comment and words were made with the context that the Pharisees at that time were mostly self-righteous in the way that they saw and perceived themselves, thinking that their piety and actions gave them the privileged status among the community.

Those Pharisees and teachers of the Law professed to be faithful and exemplary in the way they lived their lives and faith, however, they did not have a genuine love and dedication to the Lord. They loved themselves and were more concerned about their own standing and appearances, status and privileges rather than truly being faithful. They were more concerned with their own privileges and benefits rather than with the responsibility placed on their shoulders as the guide of the people.

That was why they showed little to no concern of the wellbeing of the people, especially those whom they should be on the lookout for. Instead, by burdening the people with harsh and strict laws and rules of the Law, they made it difficult for others to seek the Lord, and they also purposefully closed the doors to salvation to the people like tax collectors, the prostitutes and all those considered as the lowest and the worst of all. This was why the Lord was looking for all these people instead, to help and lead them on down the path towards eternal life.

That is why the Lord mentioned how the faithful need to be more faithful and dedicated than those Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, or else they would not be able to enter the kingdom of God. Linking this with the first reading from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we are reminded how even those who were considered and considering themselves as righteous could be dragged down by their own pride and vanity, their own greed and desire as what happened to the Pharisees, while those who were great sinners could be redeemed should they sincerely desire to repent and be forgiven, as what happened to many tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners touched by the Lord Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all of these we are reminded that each and every one of us must be truly faithful to God and must be filled with genuine and sincere love for Him, with the sincere and true desire to follow the Lord with all of our hearts. And we should not be proud with ourselves or looking down on others just because we think that we are better than them. On the contrary, we should inspire one another to be ever stronger in faith and to persevere through the challenges we may encounter in life.

May the Lord be our guide, and may He strengthen us all in our journey of faith so that as we progress through this blessed season and time of Lent, we may rediscover the love we have for God and we may grow ever more devoted to Him with each and every passing moments. Amen.

Friday, 26 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial. But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial.”

“Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or a sister, ‘Fool!’ deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.”

“Do not forget this : be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.”

Friday, 26 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8

Out of the depths I cry to You, o Lord, o Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o Lord, who could stand? But with You is forgiveness.

For that You are revered. I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and I put my hope in His word. My soul expects the Lord more than watchmen the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with Him is unfailing love and with Him full deliverance. He will deliver Israel from all its sins.

Friday, 26 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 18 : 21-28

If the sinner turns from his sin, observes My decrees and practices what is right and just, he will live, he will not die. None of the sins he committed will be charged against him, he will live as a consequence of his righteous deeds. Do I want the death of the sinner? – word of YHVH. Do I not rather want him to turn from his ways and live?

But if the righteous man turns away from what is good and commits sins as the wicked do, will he live? His righteous deeds will no longer be credited to him, but he will die because of his infidelity and his sins. But you say : YHVH’s way is not just! Why, Israel! Is My position wrong? Is it not rather that yours is wrong?”

“If the righteous man dies after turning from his righteous deeds and sinning, he dies because of his sins. And if the wicked man does what is good and right, after turning from the sins he committed, he will save his life. He will live and not die, because he has opened his eyes and turned from the sins he had committed.”